The Risks of Hiring a Non-Reputable Contractor


The Risks of Hiring a Non-Reputable Contractor

The one thing that cannot be stressed enough is to always hire a reputable contractor. Without doing the proper research when it comes to searching for foundation and waterproofing contractors in your area, you could wind up spending additional time and money fixing problems that should have been fixed from the beginning. Below is the perfect example.

Work from a non-reputable contractor

Job Well Done by “Competitor”

We got a call from a home that went through a complete remodel and a few additions about two years ago. These homeowners were currently experiencing settlement problems in the middle of their home. When we visited their home for an inspection to see what the problem was, we found duct tape surrounding the concrete column supporting their foundation. Duct tape. What we figured was that during the jacking process, they started to have a bit of movement in the column when setting the 4×4 onto the “shims” (wood shims should never be utilized in structural repairs). Thus, in their infinite wisdom, decided to duct tape it together in order to keep it from moving. Because yes, duct tape is an engineered product. This “foundation repair contractor” refused to return any of the homeowner’s phone calls, even though they offered them a lifetime warranty.

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money — that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot — it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

Tips When Hiring a Contractor

  •  “Cheap” is not always the best route. If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Contractors should be able to provide proof of training certifications from industry sources.
  • Do your research online to learn what the company’s reputation is. Look for as many reviews as you can.
  • Make sure the company can fully explain the foundation problem, solution, and process to you including what products they will be using.

Always Call the Professionals

Nichols/Grout Tech is the industry leading foundation repair, water management, and specialty grouting company in Birmingham, AL and throughout the Southeastern United States as well. Our team is compiled of hardworking, knowledgeable individuals who have the ability to help you find a solution for you and your business, no matter what the project size may be. If you are in need of a trustworthy, reputable foundation repair contractor, contact Nichols/Grout Tech today here. We are the foundation company that you can rely on. And a company that will never use duct tape to fix your foundation.


Authorized Installers of Smart Vent®

Authorized Installers of Smart Vent®


Nichols/Grout Tech is proud to announce that we are now authorized installers of Smart Vents® line of products. Smart Vent® Foundation Flood Vents is what your home is in need of if you have experienced flood damage previously or are in a flood-prone location. Flood Vents protect buildings in flood-prone areas by preventing hydrostatic pressure, which is what destroys walls and foundations. Through installing Smart Vent® Foundation Flood Vents you will no longer need to worry about the chance of foundation failure when the next big storm hits.

Installers of Smart VentWhat Makes Smart Vent® so Smart?

Smart Vents® line of Flood Vents are designed to fully protect your home or building from hydrostatic pressure. Hydrostatic pressure is what builds up when the flood waters are surrounding your foundation walls. This pressure eventually causes the foundation to become destroyed. Smart Vent® Flood Vents avoid this hydrostatic pressure by using a mitigation technique, referred to as Wet Floodproofing. This technique allows floodwater to flow freely through an enclosure such as a garage or crawlspace.

How it works is when flood water rises around your foundation, the rising water will activate the internal floats on the Flood Vent. When the internal floats are activated, the door will unlatch and open, allowing water to flow through a 3-inch clearance. The 3-inch clearance will allow not only water but debris to flow through as well. A normal air vent will clog debris that passes through the water. Through these Smart Vents®, you will be able to equalize the flood water pressure around your home, which can ultimately save your foundation.

Advantages of Smart Vent®

There are many advantages when it comes to Smart Vents® line of products, including the following:

  • ICC-ES Certified.
  • Compliant with FEMA and NFIP.
  • Made in the USA.
  • Made out of flood resistant stainless steel construction.
  • Recieve proper flood insurance rating with your Smart Vent® purchase.
  • Smart Vent® has 15+ years of experience in flood venting protection.
  • All Smart Vent® products are rodent resistant, unlike air vents.
  • Models available for every application.

Smart Vent® Foundation Flood VentsThrough installing Smart Vent® Foundation Flood Vents, you will no longer need to worry about foundation failure when flooding occurs in your area. If you are looking for the best solution for foundation flooding, Smart Vents® will provide the right products for you. If you are living in a flood-prone location and feel as though Smart Vents® would be a good option for you, give Nichols/Grout Tech a call today.

Nichols/Grout Tech, authorized installers of Smart Vent®, was established in 1981 and has held its reputation of a trusted contracting business in the Southeastern United States ever since. Due to our outstanding customer service and our high-quality workmanship, we have earned the reputation of being a premier concrete and foundation repair contractor in the industry. Our team is compiled of hardworking individuals who always have the customer as number one priority. If you are looking for a company who is knowledgeable in Smart Vent® Foundation Flood Vents, or other foundation repair services, give us a call today. Get an estimate by contacting us here. We look forward to being your authorized installers of Smart Vent®.



What Causes Water Problems in Alabama?

What Causes Water Problems in Alabama?

Water leaks into a basement or crawlspace through any opening it can find. This includes cracks in walls, floors, and the joints. Even the smallest openings water can get into when there is enough pressure built up. Water can even leak through the concrete itself. This is why basements and crawlspaces are notorious for being damp and humid.

Many people in Alabama experience water seepage in their basement. Why in Alabama? Alabama has shallow bedrock, seasonal high water tables, and massive clay subsoils. These circumstances cause a lot of basement and crawlspace water problems in Alabama homes. Sometimes the water issue is very apparent, sometimes it is not. This is why being knowledgeable of the signs is so important. Through knowing the signs of water issues you will be able to occasionally check your Alabama home and know right away if you need to contact the professionals. Check your basement or crawlspace for some of these signs:

  • Bowed walls
  • Foundation cracks
  • Water seepage
  • Water stains
  • Musty odors and mold

Water Problems AlabamaWaterproofing Solutions

Because Alabama basements and crawlspaces are prone to water damage, it is important to have a professional come and inspect your home and give you the solution to your wet basement or crawlspace repair needs. While many people think they can wait, or that they can fix it themselves, this is not the case when it comes to water issues. Not getting to the sole problem, or putting the issue off will only make matter worse, causing you more time and money in the long run. If you notice any of the signs above, contact a professional right away. The experts at Grout Tech can offer you several waterproofing solutions such as:

If your home is in need of a sealed waterproofing or water control system, you have come to the right place. The first step is to contact us. We will answer your questions and teach you about the sealed waterproofing solutions that will best fix your water problem. Your waterproofing contractor will give you a written proposal that details what can be done and the cost of the work. After you approve the proposal, we will seal your home against water quickly and permanently. Our team is compiled of hardworking, knowledgeable individuals who always have the customer as their number one priority. Our team ensures you quality service, a great warranty and the peace of mind in hiring the best.

Browse around this site and learn about the sealed waterproofing products and methods that can make your home safe and structurally sound. Whether you need a sump pump, interior waterproofing system or a sealed exterior water barrier, it is time to create a new living space within your home or a crawlspace free from moisture, humidity or standing water. Call Nichols / Grout Tech today to get started with your free quote.

Problems After Foundation Repair

Problems After Foundation Repair


foundation settlement, AlabamaMany people believe that, after foundation repairs are done, their home or business will be perfect. It is true that your office or home will be safer and more stable than it was before, but there may be new things that need to be taken care of. It is important to remember that foundation repairs keep your structure from collapsing, other problems are very minor, in comparison.

Foundation Repairs

Keep in mind that the reason that you need to have foundation repairs done in the first place is that your building’s foundation is damaged and weakened. Your home or business may be sinking unevenly or foundation walls are bowing or collapsing. If your office or house is settling unevenly, we will most likely use steel piers or helical piers to raise the foundation and give it a secure anchor in stable soil.

This process involves lowering piers into the soil underneath the home until they reach stronger and more stable earth. Once this is achieved, the building is anchored to the piers and the structure is raised to the correct level. In some instances, the entire dwelling has sunk equally, but other times, only one side or a corner has sunk. Our process will make sure that your home or business is level, stable, and secure.

New Cracks After Foundation Repairs

Many times after a structure is lifted, the owner may discover new cracks that weren’t there before. This can be expected on occasion. Cracks may show up in walls or ceilings because the building had been “leaning” before the repair, but now it is straightened out. There is some movement to be expected when the dwelling is lifted. The cracks aren’t serious or signs of structural damage. They can be patched up and painted over and look good as new.

If you did repairs to doors, windows, or trim prior to the foundation repair, you can also expect to have some alignment problems. The repairs were made while the building was crooked and now it is straight, so things may not line up like they had before. You may notice that there are gaps in between doors and their frames or windows may be difficult to open or won’t stay open.

You may also notice floors buckling if tile or hardwood had been laid prior to the foundation repair. Hard flooring materials may pop up or be damaged as they are less forgiving than other materials. Depending on what material your ceiling is made of, you may see some damage, also. Check your attic framing after foundation repair and make sure that it is in good condition. The whole structure was pushing and leaning in one direction, putting stress on different parts of the building. Now that it is straightened, the stressors are pulling in different directions and may cause cracks and other damage.

Foundation Repair is Important, Other Damage is Superficial

Keep in mind that your house or business has been settling over years and then was straightened out in a matter of minutes. Don’t put off having foundation repairs done just because you don’t want to have to patch a crack or replace some flooring. It is vital that you keep your foundation stable, keeping your family safe and secure. If you’d like to learn more about foundation repair and the things that need to be done before and after, give us a call. We’d like to talk to you and make sure all your concerns are addressed before undertaking foundation repairs to your business or home.

foundation repair, Birmingham

Wall Braces and Why We Don’t Like Them

Wall Braces and Why We Don’t Like Them

We’ve talked before about how the application of wall braces is a not very good repair solution. Here’s a story about a real-life run in with a wall brace repair and the disastrous results that we were asked to look at in the Birmingham area.

The picture below was taken about a year before this homeowner’s wall collapsed.

wall brace failure

About one year later, this is what happened. The collapsed wall was the result of the “repair” by another contractor.

foundation wall collapse

The homeowner hired another company and the contractor suggested they install the squared steel tubes that you see next to the foundation. In addition, the contractor painted the walls with an “interior waterproofing” paint. Paint will do nothing to stabilize the wall against hydrostatic pressure. Hydrostatic pressure is caused by the soil on the outside of the foundation getting oversaturated. The soil and water mixture pushes against the wall with extreme force.

It’s difficult to see in the photograph, but buried in the rubble, is a squared steel brace. This brace failed because the wall collapsed from the top, ripping the brace out of the wooden floor joist that it was secured to. According to the owner, the company that installed this “repair” said it would be at least three months before they could have anyone available to look at the damage. A lifetime warranty is worthless if the company doesn’t offer the customer service to back it. The homeowner then turned to Nichols/Grout Tech to take a look at the problems.

Repairs Done Right by Nichols/Grout Tech

It was easy to see that this mess couldn’t wait three months to be repaired. First, the floor would need to be strengthened with floor jacks. Our structural engineer determined how many floor supports we would need and the best place to put them.

The next step would be to clear the soil away from the exterior to alleviate the pressure against the foundation wall. This would reduce the chances of another wall collapse.

Next, we had our structural engineer design the correction. Seems simple, but if the original contractor had used a structural engineer licensed in the State of Alabama, this whole mess could’ve been avoided. If, for whatever reason, you don’t choose Nichols/Grout Tech, always ask the engineer if he is a licensed structural engineer before hiring them. Make sure they answer the question directly, stating that they are a structural engineer. There are a lot of bait and switch scams out there.

Lesson NOT Learned

Nichols/Grout Tech offered to do the repairs, including removing the squared steel tubes that remained. The homeowner decided to go with another company (the third one) for the repairs. The said they went with them because the other company said they could fix the wall, provide a lifetime warranty, and would leave the support beams.

The repair by this company was to rebuild the wall and fill it with concrete. This is better than the previous repair, but not the best solution. In addition, we wonder if the homeowner was told the lifetime warranty only applied to the rebuilt wall and that in Alabama and over 40 other states, a “lifetime” warranty is only good for seven years.

We wish this homeowner the best and hope that they don’t have any further problems. If they do, we’re here to offer our help again.

Steel Wall Braces Are Not A Good Option

Most reliable foundation contractors know that steel braces are not a good solution and have discarded their use as a viable option. There are several reasons why they are a poor choice for foundation repair:

1. Steel wall braces are a passive system. The braces don’t hold the wall until the wall leans even more. You can see how this is not an effective solution since the goal of the repair is to prevent the wall from moving at all.

2. The movement that is allowed is usually drastic. Even after the steel wall braces are installed, we have seen up to 2″ of movement in the concrete blocks.

Rhino Carbon Fiber3. We have two better solutions for leaning walls. One is carbon fiber straps, the second one is helical tiebacks. If the wall has less than one inch of lean, we prefer to install Rhino carbon fiber straps. Rhino has an unprecedented ZERO failure rate on their strips when they are installed correctly.

Trust Your Contractor

As much as we enjoy foundation repair, we really only want to do a job once, so we do it right the first time. We’ll make the best recommendations for repairing the damage and from keeping it from occurring again. And, most importantly, we use a licensed structural engineer, ensuring that the solution will be 100% effective.

Problems With Wall Braces

Problems With Wall Braces


Florida panhandle, foundation repairThere are many solutions for bowed or leaning wall repair and, as you would expect, some are better than others. Every situation is unique and so a professional needs to inspect the property and determine the best solution for your foundation problem.

Bowing Out

A bowing or leaning wall is a bad sign of foundation damage. By the time a wall becomes noticeably damaged, the problem has been building for a long time. A leaning or bowed wall occurs when the soil behind it exerts pressure on the concrete or brick. This can occur when the soil is made up of expansive clay, frost heave takes place, or the soil becomes oversaturated. When this occurs, the weakest link is the one that gives. This is usually the foundation wall.

Without anything being done to repair the damaged wall, eventually it will fail and there is a strong chance your entire house could collapse. As you can see from the picture at the bottom, a failed wall can cause a lot of problems.

Wall Braces

Some companies rely solely on wall braces for leaning wall problems. A wall brace is usually fitted into the floor and then secured to the floor joists. The braces can only go towards the wall as far as the bulge is. The rest of the wall has no support and can collapse. In addition, the pressure from the failing wall can push the floor joists, causing floors to sag or be uneven. Lastly, as you can see in the photo, if the wall brace isn’t properly installed, it can fail, allowing the wall to collapse. Wall braces are an option, but we like to use solutions that are more reliable and effective.

Bowing Wall Solutions

helical tiebacks for foundation repair in alabamaOne of the bowing wall solutions that we have found great success with is a helical tieback. A helical tieback consists of a wall plate, a connecting rod, and a screw-like anchor that is driven into the soil, tightening and supporting the wall.

Helical tiebacks are easy to install, use lightweight equipment, and can be installed any time of year. These are a permanent solution to a bowing or leaning wall. They can be tightened at any time in the future, if needed.

Straighten Up!

Bowing or leaning walls are a serious problem, so make sure that you have a reliable and trustworthy company like Nichols Grout/Tech doing the repairs. Your home is a huge investment and it protects you and your family. Do your part to make sure that your home is stable and secure.


What’s the Price for Peace of Mind?

What’s the Price for Peace of Mind?


Your home is your biggest investment and keeping your family safe and secure is priceless, but there comes a time where your budget has to meet reality, right?

foundation repair costsOur financing options are offered through EnerBankUSA. EnerBankUSA specializes in providing home improvement loans to people throughout the country. Click here or contact us for more information regarding our financial assistance program.

Average Costs Around the Country

Helical Pile World (HPW) contacted 21 installation contractors, distributors, and manufacturers around the country. Keep in mind that there are many variables that come into play when estimating the cost of a project. Some things are under a contractor’s control, while others are not. Factors such as weather, material costs, problems with the site, and so on can all impact the final price of any project.

All the companies that were contacted stated that per pile prices would be higher if the site was problematic. Additionally, prices per pile would be lower if the project was larger than 30 piles and the site was in good condition.

Sample Projects for Estimates

cost of foundation repairThe sample project that HPW asked the participants to quote included the following details:

  • 20-foot pile with two galvanized bearing plates
  • 20 kip* allowable capacity
  • No cobbles or other obstructions in the soil
  • New construction pile cost, 30 piles or less
  • Residential remedial application costs

* A kip is a unit of measurement used in structural engineering. One kip is equal to 1000 pounds-force.

The first project that was quoted was for new construction helical piles with grade beam caps. The prices ranged from $790 in the Northwest section of the country to $680 in the West/Southwest. Our area of the country came in at $690, so on the low end of the spectrum.

The second project, the remedial helical pile with bracket, had a little bit bigger range of pricing. The West/Southwest was the highest region at $1410. The Midwest/Plains states had the low end of the range at $1090. Our part of the country is in the middle, coming in at $1120.

These prices are for a residential project on a typical site. Commercial properties or challenging sites would be priced higher. Schedule a free estimate for a better idea of what your particular project would be priced at.

You Get What You Pay For

Also, keep in mind that the lowest price is not always the best deal. You may save some money right now, but if the work isn’t done correctly or the materials used are cheaply made, you’ll be spending more to have the damage repaired and the project done right a second time. Make sure you use a contractor with a reputation for good work, helpful customer service, and uses quality products. Give Nichols Grout/Tech a call to learn more about how we can make your home stable at competitive prices and financial assistance program.

foundation repair costs around the world.

Credit: Helical Pile World

Extreme Weather & Your Alabama Foundation

Did You Know that Rain is Messing with Your Foundation?

storms cause problems for Alabama foundationsDangerous weather has definitely been an issue for Alabama, as it is many years. You always think of how it will affect your home or cars. Is your roof going to leak? Will your gutters handle all that rain? Is the hail going to dent your car? What you don’t think about it how it is affecting a part of your home that is mostly hidden to you: your foundation.

Wet Weather Means Expanding Soil

Too much rain is a big deal for your home’s foundation. Whether a slab or a crawlspace, when water builds up it causes something called hydrostatic pressure. This pressure is exerted on foundation walls. It can cause bowing or leaning of basement or crawlspace walls, and cracks in all types of foundations. You know if there are cracks and water around, it is going to find it’s way into your home. This can mean mold, mildew, rot, rodents and other major problems.

So What is a Homeowner to Do?

check gutters to prevent water buildup So are you freaking out yet? If so, it’s understandable. However you can keep these big problems from getting worse. Just start by paying attention. Walk the exterior of your home after big storms. Make sure gutters are intact and leading water away from your home. Make sure the grade of the soil against your foundation is sloping down and away from your home. Check crawlspaces for foul smells and dampness. Look for even the smallest cracks and note where they are and what they look like.

If you notice cracks or changes in interior or exterior of your foundation, don’t wait to have it looked at. It can mean the difference between a small repair, and spending big bucks. Nichols/Grout Tech offers free inspections. It can’t hurt to have your home looked at if you have concerns, but if you wait it can hurt something much bigger: Your home and your wallet. Give us a call today to schedule your free inspection. We can help your foundation weather just about any storm Alabama can throw at you.

Hiring A Foundation Repair Company in Alabama

Foundation Company in Alabama

When it comes to foundation repair, it is important to hire a company that has the experience, right equipment, and highly trained employees. Grout Tech has all of these!

Here are a few tips to know when hiring a foundation company in Alabama:

  • Get educated on foundation repair and ask questions. Don’t make your decision on advertising or cheap pricing.
  • Ask if there will be any additional costs if the piling needs to go deeper than expected.
  • Make sure the contractor is evaluated by the ICC-ES (International Code Council Evaluation Services). This ensures that the building products meet code compliance.
  • Ask if there is a guarantee is a shrub or bush gets damaged during the repair.
  • Pay attention to the warranties or guarantees for the foundation repair work.

Foundation Repair in Alabama

There some signs in and around your home to look for that may indicate that you are in need of foundation repair. Some of these signs are:carbon-install

  • Floor cracks
  • Wall cracks
  • Leaning chimney
  • Sticking doors and windows
  • Garage column cracks
  • Sinking garage
  • Sloping floors

Let the professionals at Grout Tech give you a free inspection. We have over 35 years of experience in foundation repair, water management, and pressure grouting. We use only the best products for foundation repair. They are manufactured by Earth Contact Products (ECP), the very best in the industry.

The products used for foundation repair are helical piers and steel piers. These piers are driven deep into the ground until they reach a solid soil layer. Each pier is load tested. After testing, the entire weight of the structure is lifted onto the piers. The foundation will be stabilized and level for many years to come. Grout Tech is your foundation company experts in Alabama.

How Does The Weather Affect My Alabama Foundation?

Spring Showers: How They Affect Your Alabama Foundation

With spring just around the corner, Alabama is about to experience a season of rainfall. Here in the south, we’ve already seen our fair share of bad weather this winter. Now, as the snow melts and the rain falls, Alabama homeowners must be aware of foundation issues that may occur.

When the soil around your home is over saturated by heavy rain or melted snow, it will expand and push against your foundation walls. This can cause your foundation to become uneven over time, and cause cracks as well. After the winter, it is likely that your foundation has formed small cracks due to high pressures from ice and frost.

This spring, be on the lookout for the beginning signs of foundation damage and contact a professional as soon as you notice them. Foundation failure can cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair, so it’s important to have your foundation inspected and repaired before the damage gets dangerous – both for your home and for your wallet. When inspecting your home, look for the following signs:foundation repair hoover alabama

  • Wall cracks
  • Sloping floors
  • Misaligned trim
  • Windows that stick
  • Doors that won’t shut
  • Foundation crumbling
  • Cracked ceilings
  • Dark stains

Also, be sure to check your basement for flooding. If you have noticed water stains, musty odors, peeling paint, or rust in your basement, it is most likely the result of water seepage. If water is seeping into your basement, you definitely have a foundation problem.

Foundation Repair Solutions in Birmingham, Alabama

The most important thing you can do to keep your foundation safe and healthy is to prevent water from reaching your home. The first thing you can do to achieve this is to have your gutters regularly cleaned out. If your gutters are full of leaves, branches, and debris, water will collect and overflow straight onto your Alabama foundation. It is also important to extend your downspouts to be at least 10 feet away from your home, so that water is efficiently directed away from your foundation. Do this with your sump pump drains as well.

Here at Nichol’s/Grout Tech, we have many years of experience when it comes to foundation repair. No matter what issues you are experiencing, we can give you the best solution for your specific needs and budget. We can use helical piers to permanently stabilize your Alabama foundation and reverse the damage that has been done. Give us a call today for your free quote!